As just a par 70, Atlanta Athletic Club certainly a beast

By Associated PressAugust 10, 2011, 11:02 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Tiger Woods posed over his approach into the 18th green Wednesday morning as the ball descended toward the flag and the crowd began to murmur with anticipation.


This was only his final practice round for the PGA Championship. Imagine facing this shot with a one-shot lead Sunday afternoon, not having Woods’ power, and it starts to make sense why David Toms laid up with a wedge 10 years ago.

Only it’s not just the closing hole at Atlanta Athletic Club.

In what ranks as most of the more difficult closing stretches in championship golf, the last four holes feature a pair of par 3s over water, including one that measures 260 yards on the scorecard. The shorter par 4 is only 476 yards, but is entirely uphill. The closing hole is 507 yards that bends to the left and has a lake in front of the green

“I don’t think there’s another stretch that I can remember that’s this difficult coming in,” Woods said. “You have two long par 4s going uphill, you’ve got a par 3 in which more guys will be hitting lumber, and obviously 18 being as tight as it for as long as it is, it’s a hell of a test coming in.

“If you play those four holes per day, those 16 holes even par, you’ll be picking up a ton of shots on the guys.”

It was difficult enough in 2001, and now they are a combined 85 yards longer.

They played a key part of the PGA Championship the last time it came to Atlanta Athletic Club. The 15th hole is where Toms made an ace with his 5-wood in the third round to take the lead. Of course, the hole was only 227 yards back then.

“First of all, 5-wood is not going to be enough club for me,” Toms said.

The 16th hole is where Phil Mickelson heard a fan shout out Sunday afternoon that his long birdie putt was slower than it looked. Mickelson ran it by some 8 feet and three-putted for bogey, a lost stroke that he never got back and finished second.

On the 18th hole, Toms had a 5-wood from the light rough to clear the water. Instead, he laid up with a wedge, hit another to 12 feet and make the putt to win his only major.

Ten years later, not much has changed as far as the test that awaits when the final major gets under way Thursday.

“We were talking at lunch, if you had to par the last four holes to win the PGA Championship, it’s going to be a tough road,” Toms said. “Those last four holes are very, very difficult now.”

That’s where most majors are decided, anyway.

Martin Kaymer thought the finishing stretch at the PGA Championship was among the toughest he had ever seen, with a pair of par 4s at least 500 yards, and a 223-yard par 3 for the 17th.

Then he came to Atlanta Athletic Club.

“Whistling Straits, the last four holes, I think they played a little bit easier because there was no water involved,” Kaymer said. “There was always some room for misses. I would rather play the last four holes at Whistling Straits. They were a lot more difficult here.”

It’s not just the closing stretch on the Highlands course at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Rees Jones overhauled the course for this PGA, and it now measures 7,467 yards, the longest in major championship history for a par 70.

The good news is that it might not play that long. For one thing, PGA officials are contemplating moving the tees forward on two of the par 4s, one on each nine. Plus, with temperatures in the 90s and an immaculate course with fairways that could be running fast, players might get ample distance.

Dustin Johnson, one of the longest hitters in golf, hit driver on the 18th and had a 9-iron into the green.

“It doesn’t play that long,” McIlroy said of the entire course. “The ball is going so far because it’s so hot. I mean, you’re hitting 7-irons nearly 200 yards. I don’t think it plays the 7,400 yards that’s on the card.”

If there is one hole getting plenty of attention, it’s the 15th. A new tee makes the hole play as long as 260 yards, among the longest ever for a par 3 in a major. Oakmont had the par-3 eighth that could play - and did play in the final round of the 2007 U.S. Open - around 300 yards. But it didn’t have a pond hugging the right side and front corner of the green.

“Cunning par 3, isn’t it,” Clarke said of the 15th.

Like so many other players, he doesn’t understand why architects have failed to notice the best par 3s are the shortest, whether it’s the 106-yard seventh hole at Pebble Beach or the 155-yard 12th at Augusta National or the famed “Postage Stamp” hole at Royal Troon, which is 123 yards of sheer terror.

“At some stage, they’re going to realize length is not the way to toughen a golf course,” Clarke said.

So how does one play a 260-yard par 3.

“I don’t know,” Clarke said. “A 3-wood and hit it well or it will be a redo. Because balls don’t float.”

Former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell summed up the length at Atlanta Athletic Club by suggesting it would be a good week for 3-woods and hybrids.

As for the longest par on the course? He shrugged.

“There’s no need for 260 yards on a par 3, but we’re becoming quite used to them. I couldn’t really tell you a par 3 I love that’s over 220 yards.”

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Romo rallies to win American Century Championship

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:42 am

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. - Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo rallied from four points back to win his first American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

Romo, who retired after the 2016 NFL season and is now an NFL analyst, had 27 points on the day to beat three-time defending champion Mark Mulder and San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, the the leader after the first two rounds.

''It's a special win,'' said Romo, who had finished second three times in seven previous trips to the annual celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. ''It feels like you're playing a tournament back home here. The day felt good for a lot of reasons.''

Romo tapped in for par, worth one point, on the 18th hole to finish with 71 points, three ahead of Mulder, the former major league pitcher. He then caught a flight to Berlin, Wis., where he was to compete in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament on Monday.

The American Century Championship uses a modified Stableford scoring system which rewards points for eagles (six), birdies (three) and pars (one) and deducts points (two) for double bogeys or worse. Bogeys are worth zero points.

Pavelski had a 7-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that could have tied Romo, but it slid by. He finished with 66 points, tied for third with Ray Allen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7.

Full-field scores from the American Century Championship

''It feels like nothing went in for me today,'' Pavelski said. ''But I couldn't ask for more than to have that putt to tie on the last hole.''

Romo plays as an amateur, so his $125,000 first-place check from the $600,000 purse will go to local charities and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, the primary charitable arm of title sponsor American Century Investments.

Rounding out the top five were Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, and former tennis player Mardy Fish. Each had 62 points.

Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who fell out of contention with a mediocre round Saturday, jumped into Lake Tahoe amidst much fanfare after losing a bet to his father, Dell. The elder Curry jumped into the lake last year, so he negotiated a 20-point handicap and won by two points.

Other notable players in the 92-player field included John Smoltz, the MLB hall of Fame pitcher who two weeks ago competed in the U.S. Senior Open and finished 10th here with 53 points; Steph Curry, who finished tied for 11th with retired Marine and wounded war hero Andrew Bachelder (50); actor Jack Wagner (16th, 47 points); Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (tied for 18th, 44 points); actor Ray Romano (tied for 71st, minus-26 points); comedian Larry the Cable Guy (tied for 77th, minus-33 points); and former NBA great Charles Barkley, who finished alone in last with minus-93 points.

The tournament drew 57,097 fans for the week, setting an attendance record for the fourth straight year.

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Singh tops Maggert in playoff for first senior major

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:10 am

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. - Vijay Singh birdied the second playoff hole to beat Jeff Maggert and win the Constellation Senior Players Championship on Sunday.

Singh knocked in a putt from about 2 feet after a nearly perfect approach on the 18th hole at Exmoor Country Club, giving an understated fist pump as the ball fell in. That gave him his first major title on the PGA Tour Champions to go with victories at the Masters and two PGA Championships.

Singh (67) and Maggert (68) finished at 20-under 268. Brandt Jobe (66) was two strokes behind, while Jerry Kelly (64) and defending champion Scott McCarron (71) finished at 17 under.

Maggert had chances to win in regulation and on the first playoff hole.

He bogeyed the par-4 16th to fall into a tie with Singh at 20 under and missed potential winning birdie putts at the end of regulation and on the first playoff hole.

His 15-footer on the 72nd hole rolled wide, forcing the playoff, and a downhill 12-footer on the same green went just past the edge.

Full-field scores from the Constellation Energy Senior Players

The 55-year-old Singh made some neat par saves to get into the playoff.

His tee shot on 17 landed near the trees to the right of the fairway, and his approach on 18 wound up in a bunker. But the big Fijian blasted to within a few feet to match Maggert's par.

McCarron - tied with Maggert and Bart Bryant for the lead through three rounds - was trying to join Arnold Palmer and Bernhard Langer as the only back-to-back winners of this major. He came back from a six-shot deficit to win at Caves Valley near Baltimore last year and got off to a good start on Sunday.

He birdied the first two holes to reach 18 under. But bogeys on the par-4 seventh and ninth holes knocked him off the lead. His tee shot on No. 7 rolled into a hole at the base of a tree and forced him to take an unplayable lie.

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Davies a fitting winner of inaugural USGA championship

By Randall MellJuly 15, 2018, 11:26 pm

Laura Davies confessed she did not sleep well on a five-shot lead Saturday night at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

It’s all you needed to know about what this inaugural event meant to the women who were part of the history being made at Chicago Golf Club.

The week was more than a parade of memories the game’s greats created playing in the USGA’s long-awaited showcase for women ages 50 and beyond.

The week was more than nostalgic. 

It was a chance to make another meaningful mark on the game.

In the end, Davies relished seeing the mark she made in her runaway, 10-shot victory. She could see it in the familiar etchings on the trophy she hoisted.

“I get my name on it first,” Davies said. “This championship will be played for many years, and there will only be one first winner. Obviously, quite a proud moment for me to win that.”

Really, all 120 players in the field made their marks at Chicago Golf Club. They were all pioneers of sorts this past week.

“It was very emotional seeing the USGA signs, because I've had such a long history, since my teens, playing in USGA championships,” said Amy Alcott, whose Hall of Fame career included the 1980 U.S. Women’s Open title. “I thought the week just came off beautifully. The USGA did a great job. It was just so classy how everything was done, this inaugural event, and how was it presented.”

Davies was thankful for what the USGA added to the women’s game, and she wasn’t alone. Gratefulness was the theme of the week.

Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open

The men have been competing in the U.S. Senior Open since 1980, and now the women have their equal opportunity to do the same.

“It was just great to be a part of the first,” three-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Hollis Stacy said. “The USGA did a great job of having it at such a great golf course. It's just been very memorable.”

Trish Johnson, who is English, like Davies, finished third, 12 shots back, but she left with a heart overflowing.

“Magnificent,” said Johnson, a three-time LPGA and 19-time LET winner. “Honestly, it's one of the best, most enjoyable weeks I've ever played in in any tournament anywhere.”

She played in the final group with Davies and runner-up Juli Inkster.

“Even this morning, just waiting to come out here, I thought, `God, not often do I actually think how lucky I am to do what I do,’” Johnson said.

At 54, Davies still plays the LPGA and LET regularly. She has now won 85 titles around the world, 20 of them LPGA titles, four of them majors, 45 of them LET titles.

With every swing this past week, she peeled back the years, turned back the clock, made fans and peers remember what she means to the women’s game.

This wasn’t the first time Davies made her mark in a USGA event. When she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1987, she became just the second player from Europe to win the title, the first in 20 years. She opened a new door for internationals. The following year, Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann won the title.

“A lot of young Europeans and Asians decided that it wasn't just an American sport,” Davies said. “At that stage, it had been dominated, wholeheartedly, by all the names we all love, Lopez, Bradley, Daniel, Sheehan.”

Davies gave the rest of the world her name to love, her path to follow.

“It certainly made a lot of foreign girls think that they could take the Americans on,” Davies said.

In golf, it’s long been held that you can judge the stature of an event by the names on the trophy. Davies helps gives the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open the monumental start it deserved.

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Suwannapura beats Lincicome in playoff for first win

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2018, 10:49 pm

SYLVANIA, Ohio - Thidapa Suwannapura won her first LPGA event on Sunday, closing with a 6-under 65 and birdieing the first playoff hole to defeat Brittany Lincicome at the Marathon Classic.

The 25-year-old Thai player is the sixth first-time winner on tour this year. Her previous best finish in 120 starts was seventh at the 2014 Kingsmill Championship.

Suwannapura picked up three strokes over her final two holes, making eagle on the par-5 17th and closing with a birdie on the par-5 18th at Highland Meadows to finish at 14-under 270.

In the playoff, Suwannapura converted a short birdie putt after Lincicome hit her second shot into a water hazard and scrambled for par.

Lincicome shot 67. She had a chance to win in regulation, but her birdie putt from about 10 feet did a nearly 360-degree turn around the edge of the cup and stayed out. Next up for the big-hitting Lincicome: a start against the men at the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship.

Third-round leader Brooke Henderson led by two shots after six holes, but struggled the rest of the way. Back-to-back bogeys on the 14th and 15th holes dropped her out of the lead. The 20-year-old Canadian finished with a 2-under 69, one shot out of the playoff.